Ballots Open In Welsh Deputy Leadership Contest

Ballots have opened for the Welsh Labour Deputy Leadership election, and the question of electoral system is at the forefront of the contest. The two contenders are Carolyn Harris, the MP for Swansea East, and Julie Morgan, AM for Cardiff North.

The election is being fought with the old electoral college system. This means one third of the vote is given to members, one third to representatives (MPs, MEPs, and members of the Welsh Assembly), and one third to trade union and affiliate members. But Julie Morgan and her supporters have championed the introduction of One-Member-One-Vote (OMOV) as in the rest of the Labour Party, after the Welsh Executive Committee rejected it.

Carolyn Harris’ supporters have dismissed the idea that the contest is mostly about party structures, and have muted a line about talking to the country, not the party. In their defence, the Welsh Labour vote has held up remarkably well, even increasing at 2017. But Morgan’s supporters see OMOV not just as essential for democratic reasons, but in order to transform the party and retain widespread Welsh support.

Some sources in Welsh Labour believe it is likely that Morgan will win the members section, and expect Harris to take the representatives section comfortably. The ‘unknown quantity’ is the trade union section. The trade unions have mostly swung behind Harris - though their endorsements are not divided along the usual lines. Usdaw, Community, Unite, BFAWU, FBU, ASLEF, and the GMB are backing Harris, while Unison and CWU are backing Morgan. Any long time observer of internal Labour elections will recognise the unusual nature of this division - trade union endorsements normally split with Community and USDAW on one side, and with Unite, Unison, and the smaller unions on the other. The key question is the extent to which the unions will attempt to mobilise their affiliate members to back their preferred candidate.

Darren Williams, a member of both the Welsh Executive Committee and UK Labour’s National Executive, said that he was backing Julie Morgan:

“[H]er unrivalled experience as a councillor, MP and now Assembly Member and because her integrity and political judgement are beyond question. She has a long record of support for progressive causes and, as an MP, was not afraid to defy to whip over issues like the Iraq war and university top-up fees.”

“She has always been committed to greater democracy, inside and outside the party, as her support for the current campaign to introduce OMOV for Welsh Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections demonstrates.”

Jo Stevens MP for Cardiff Central, told The Robin why she was backing Harris:

"The Deputy Leader role is a campaigning one that will give our Welsh Party that extra leadership boost to get us over the line for a majority Labour Government in Wales, a Labour UK Government and running more Councils across Wales.

"To do that we need to mobilise our growing membership, listening to people and communities across Wales, so that Labour is the Party they look to when they cast their vote.

"I’ve worked closely with Carolyn since she became an MP and she’s made waves leading national campaigns on children’s holiday hunger, for a Children’s Funeral Fund and for pension equality for 1950s born women. Her campaign to reform and reduce stakes on fixed odd betting terminals is another example of how she has taken on big challenges and succeeded.

"Carolyn’s campaigning record is outstanding, but she also brings an ability to communicate and connect with people who love her enthusiasm and passion. She’ll do that for our members and supporters and she’ll help us do it for voters too.”

The result will be announced at Welsh Labour Conference on April 20th.

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